Gimme shelter: Housing law in Canada.

Author:Chan, Scarlett

Like most areas of law, the legislation pertaining to real estate and the various forms of residency people experience has slowly evolved as society changes. Once, most people either owned a home or rented and the laws relating to each were relatively simple. Over time, however, the recognition of rights and the need for consumer protection has grown. It has become necessary to distinguish between the various forms of ownership, such as condominium or detached home, as well as the various forms of renting, such as self-contained suites versus shared-space rentals. This article aims to briefly explore some of the significant changes we have seen recently in Alberta and the rest of Canada and consider where future developments may be headed.

Shelter is a basic need for all people, and, therefore, it makes sense to demand laws that protect people in housing situations. So, it is troubling that development in this area of law seems to happen at a snail's pace. However, unlike some areas such as criminal law, housing protections often contrast the rights of two private parties as opposed to the needs of the state versus the needs of the individual. The result is legislative developments which must carefully balance competing interests.

Consider, for example, the desire to encourage the development of condo buildings, an activity which creates jobs, helps with affordable housing, and reflects a growing economy. Although we desire the positive effects of this activity, we also have a countering need for laws to control this activity to ensure building quality, consumer protection for condo purchasers, including the regulation of condominium management. While building standards in the Alberta Building Code have remained unchanged since 2014, in 2017 the Alberta government intends to implement the revised Condominium Property Amendment Act in an effort improve consumer protection through things like purchase disclosure requirements, trust money safeguards, and "rules for a smooth transition from the developer to the owner-elected board of directors." The proposed changes may not totally fix the faults that exist in the condo market, but they demonstrate a desire to take affirmative steps through legislation to protect the rights of people who reside in such buildings.

Just as we have seen a recognized need to better protect condo purchasers, the Alberta government, as CBC News reported in March, 2107, is contemplating the need to regulate the...

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